Recent posts have emphasized the close link between declining union coverage and rising inequality in the US–over the last century, and across the individual states. This graphic puts the US pattern in an international context. The vertical axis plots union coverage by country. The horizontal axis plots a rough index of inequality: the ratio between high wages (those at the 90th percentile) and low wages (10th percentile) for each country. The bigger the gap between those percentiles, the higher the ratio. On each measure, the median line divides the sample of countries (depending on which are selected in the menu) in half. Data is provided for two years: circa 1985 (“early” data for some countries comes from other years), and 2007 (the most recent year for which data on all countries was available). The US–no big surprise–is mired in the lower right quadrant. As of 1985, the US already has the lowest union coverage of its peers and only one country (Hungary) has greater wage inequality. By 2007, things are even worse: the US has lost much of its union coverage (falling from 20 percent to barely 13 percent) and boasts–by quite a margin–the starkest wage inequality among this group. This graphic is based on data in the excellent OECD Report, Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising (2011).
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